MVC approves, sort of, hospital parking plan

MVC approves, sort of, hospital parking plan

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The new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is ready for occupancy. Tonight, hospital officials expect, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) will agree.

At a special meeting called to accommodate the hospital’s pressing time schedule, the full commission is expected to vote that the hospital’s current leased use of the Portuguese-American (P-A) Club parking lot satisfies the final condition of MVC approval.

Monday, the MVC’s land use planning committee (LUPC) voted to recommend that the full MVC agree that the parking condition has been met.

The Island’s powerful regional permitting body must issue a certificate of compliance before hospital leaders can go to the Oak Bluffs building inspector for an occupancy permit for their new $48 million building. And state regulators will not schedule an inspection of the new facility until a certificate of occupancy has been issued.

With hospital officials anxious to be in the new facility before the busy summer months, procedural missteps or delays could be costly.

Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, told The Times in a telephone conversation that he is ready to visit Jerry Weiner, Oak Bluffs building inspector, on Friday. The next step is an inspection of fire and safety systems by the state Department of Public Safety. Once that is complete, the Department of Public Health will inspect the building.

Assuming both inspections go well, Mr. Walsh said he expects to have the building ready by the first week in June and to make the move from the old building to the new in the second week.

“You really don’t want to be doing this in July if you can help it,” Mr. Walsh said.

Mr. Walsh said he thought his meeting with the LUPC went well. “They were trying to work with us, to help us meet timelines,” he said.

End of road, almost

A vote tonight to approve the parking plan would complete a permitting process that began almost five years ago with the hospital’s referral to the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).

Following a marathon review process, in December 2006 the MVC approved the construction of a new hospital building built entirely with donations. That approval came with 68 conditions. Some of them required that hospital leaders return to the MVC with specific plans for separate approvals, for example the plan for signage, landscaping, and a plan to provide additional parking either on-, or off-site.

On Monday, Mr. Walsh, accompanied by Connie Bulman, construction project supervisor, met with members of the LUPC to ask for approval of the P-A Club arrangement. Mr. Walsh also presented initial plans for two proposed future parking sites.

One showed a lot with 49 parking spaces that would be built on a strip of overgrown property the hospital acquired off Eastville Avenue and running alongside the back hospital entrance road.

The other plan showed a proposed lot for 107 vehicles to be built on a 1.7-acre wooded lot across from the old emergency room and behind the State Police barracks bordered by Eastville Avenue and Temahigan Avenue.

Under a deal that required legislative approval, the hospital expects to acquire that property, now owned by the state Department of Mental Health (DMH).

The LUPC is an amorphous group that has no fixed number and is open to any commissioner who chooses to attend.

Meetings of the LUPC are more informal than full commission meetings but committee discussions often lead to influential recommendations to the full commission.

Monday, an eight-member LUPC, one member short of an MVC quorum, took up a motion commissioner John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs offered — that the P-A Club contractual arrangement satisfied the MVC’s parking requirement for 60 additional spaces, opening the way for the hospital to clear one more regulatory hurdle.

Mark London, MVC executive director, said the LUPC could simply vote that night that the condition was approved.

“I think what Mark is suggesting,” Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, LUPC chairman, said, “is that if we believe that this does in fact meet our condition and we come damn close to being a quorum of the commission, if there is a consensus that this meets the condition, does the commission have to vote that it meets the condition?”

Christina Brown of Edgartown, MVC chairman, said the language of the condition was unambiguous. It required a full MVC vote. But the full MVC was not scheduled to meet until May 20.

Ms. Brown suggested the MVC schedule a special meeting at 6:30 pm this evening, to follow a meeting of the wind energy planning group.

The LUPC voted unanimously to recommend to the full MVC that the contractual arrangement with the P-A Club lot met the condition.

But Mr. Walsh’s fleeting glimpse of the end of the MVC’s regulatory tunnel became quickly obscured by an extended discussion of how the commission should treat the two additional parking areas. It took a bit of bureaucratic sausage-making, but the eight LUPC members finally did reach agreement.

The hospital must return to the MVC for a fresh public hearing on the ultimate parking plans.

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The next issue is how to proceed with the extra lots, Ms. Sibley said, noting that one plan shows landscaping and the other does not.

Mr. Walsh said the 49-space lot is “ready to go.”

He explained that he wanted to shift from the P-A lot as soon as possible to save approximately $200,000 annually, the cost to lease the lot and provide bus and taxi transportation for employees.

The original MVC condition called for 60 spaces. The number needed to be revised and approved. But how many spaces the hospital actually would need is a question still to be answered. That original number was drawn from a traffic study completed years earlier, and the hospital had created parking spots across its campus.

Fueled by a dish of M&Ms and a jar of peanuts making the rounds of the table, the commissioners set to work considering the proposed new lot.

Ms. Sibley was adamant that the number of parking spaces be separated from the lot location. There was concern that there be some flexibility should the design and review process limit the final parking configuration.

Mr. Breckenridge proposed a motion for “40 or more spaces.”

“How about 45,” another commissioner said.

How about 45 but less than 60, Ned Orleans of Tisbury said.

The LUPC voted to recommend to the full commission the condition be changed from 60 to 40 or more.

The next discussion was whether the new lot location required a public hearing and whether both lot locations could be considered at the same time.

The parking on the (currently) state-owned lot could not be considered at the same time because the hospital did not own it yet, staff said. That left the adjacent lot.

Commissioner Chris Murphy of Chilmark proposed that the new lot was a relatively minor continuation of existing parking and therefore did not require a public hearing. He said the Oak Bluffs planning board would also review it, and that would suffice.

Mr. Breckenridge said his only concern was review of the landscape plan for the lot.

Would there be trees in the plan, Ms. Sibley asked. The plan was not clear on that question.

Mr. London said there might be a few trees that could be saved.

The discussion went back and forth, until LUPC members asked that the commission schedule a public hearing on June 3, to formally consider the matter. More than an hour and a half after the start of the meeting, Ms. Sibley summed things up.

“Okay, so lets review what we did,” she said. “We are going to recommend to the full commission that the use of the P-A club on a contractual basis satisfies the first part of the condition; we are going to recommend to the full commission that we allow you to develop in the long run the parking plan that is for 40 or more, instead of 60 or more; and we are going to recommend to the full commission that we hold a public hearing on your proposal to build this particular lot because this was not part of the plan, and any changes that you might have made in the main parking lot; and if you can tease out which of those are under the jurisdiction of the concom [Oak Bluffs conservation commission] and which might not be. Is that it? Thank you for bearing with us. Procedurally it is a bit of a headache.”